New United Kingdom coins 02.04.08

words Penelope Shaw

The Royal Mint has revealed new designs for the reverse side of seven of the UK’s coins, the most significant design change since decimalisation was introduced 40 years ago. Young designer Matthew Dent has been working with Royal Mint for the last year developing the new coins.

His designs were selected from more than 4000 responses to a competition open to specially invited artists, members of the Royal Mint Engraving Department and the public.

“The brief called for designs to represent the four countries, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales,” says Dent. “I didn’t want to be biased to one country so I decided to work with the idea of a single theme for every coin.”

Dent also wanted to include an emphasis on heraldry and decided to use the Shield of the Royal Arms as a recognisable emblem of the monarchy. “I needed a dense shape for an interesting overall layout and the shield lent itself to this arrangement,” he says.

The 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p and 50p coins show a section of the Shield of the Royal Arms; at first glance the fragments of the shield look like abstract shapes, but when arranged correctly, the set of coins form the complete shield. The £1 coin holds the image of the whole shield.

The unifying design adds a dynamic to the coins that Dent hopes will encourage people to respond to the coins beyond their primary function. “The aspect of play is really important for me,” says Dent. “I wanted people to be able to work out the design themselves.”

Dent worked with sculptor John Bergdahl to complete the three-dimensional side of the graphic designs.

The coins will go into circulation later this summer.

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